Trivia This is the first film about Annwn - the underground Netherworld region found in Welsh legend.
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The Dark (2005)
14th Jan 07
When Adele (Maria Bello) and her daughter Sarah (Sophie Stuckey) pop over to visit dad James (Sean Bean) in Wales creepy things start to kick off. Not long after their teenage daughter Sarah accidentally drowns, a young girl appears who just happens to look like their recently deceased daughter, and who claims to have died fifty years before.
At the movies in 2005 if you were a young girl and your dad happened to look like Sean Bean then chances are you were in for a rough ride. Having already lost one daughter in Silent Hill the silly blighter has gone and lost another one (or has he?) in The Dark although he is not completely to blame as his estranged wife, played by Maria Bello, probably didn’t help things much either.
Adapted from a surprisingly spooky novel called Sheep by Simon Maginn, Stephen Massicotte’s screenplay is so completely different it makes you wonder why they bothered saying they had sourced it from the novel at all. This is not surprising when you hear in the extras that director John Fawcett, who had previously made the effective Ginger Snaps, considered the original script he worked on with the book’s author failed to be the supernatural horror he wanted to make.
With each subsequent draft Fawcett got further away from Maginn’s book, stripping everything down completely and just keeping the odd moment. What Fawcett and his replacement scriptwriter Massicotte did was take a book that was fairly unique and spooky, and strained it into something more familiar and derivative despite their claims to be making something that will surprise us.
The story in the novel told of a young family moving to a remote part of Wales following the traumatic drowning of their daughter. Attempting to move on with their lives they have moved to Wales to renovate a farmhouse. Things take a turn for the nasty when sheep are found horribly mutilated and the finger of blame points to the mother. After the mum is hospitalised with schizophrenia it becomes very apparent that it couldn’t have been her as the grizzly happenings continue. The film adaptation forgets almost completely about the sheep, has the daughter drown whilst the estranged parents do their best to get on, and then veers off into the realms of Welsh mythology.
The story’s thrust focuses on the myth of ‘Annwn’ (Welsh for the afterlife) and is apparently the first movie to feature it. It would appear from the storyline ‘Annwn’ means that for everyone of the living that passes over one of the dead can return. And with the drowning of Sarah so returns Ebrill (played by Abigail Stone) daughter of the nutty local shepherd who died some fifty years ago. Both Sarah’s parents take this turn of events in their stride like it happens all the time however as mum Adele still feels bad for having once slapped her daughter (the shame!),oddly not for saying fuck twice but for saying that she only ever thought of herself, she starts investigating the myth to see if she can get her daughter back.
Despite a somewhat clichéd and obvious story The Dark does manage to maintain an eerie feel that keeps things a notch above the standard and rescues it from a daft scenario that only really jumps into gear come the explanatory climax. The ending is refreshingly downbeat and still manages to come as a surprise even if they do ram home the point of ‘one of the living for one of the dead’ throughout. The camerawork is effective in conveying the bleakness of the locality speaking much louder about the character’s isolation than a couple of reminders about their inability to get a signal on their mobile phone.
Sean Bean can do these sorts of roles in his sleep; in fact I think he is asleep. However Maria Bello is an attractive and interesting actress with great work in the likes of David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence and the recent Right at Your Door. She doesn’t disappoint here providing a believable emotional core for what otherwise could have been a standard and forgettable movie. It’s just a shame in the extras she proves that the more interesting actors have bugger all convincing or real to say unless someone else has written it for them.
The menu opens with a shot from the movie that reminds the viewer very strongly of a scene from The Ring of someone flinging themselves over a cliff which kind of shows how little in the way of originality the movie has. That is evident too in the lacklustre ‘extras’ the disc has. There is the bog standard trailer that gives away the whole plot in just a couple of minutes as well as a happier alternative ending that neither adds nor takes away from the finished movie.
There are a number of interviews from key cast and crew all of which pretty much tell you how great working with Sean Bean was and that there is a twist in the tale that we wont see coming. The most amusing of these is from Maurice Roeves who plays handyman Dafydd in the film who reckons the film will be remembered as well as Hitchcock’s The Birds but then the movie hadn’t been finished then. Perhaps he may have wisely reconsidered his opinion after seeing the final cut.
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